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In which I make a case for (a little bit of) Web 1.0 in the Government 2.0 world

I’ve been thinking about Dennis McDonald‘s thoughts about K-TOC.

He wrote: “I guess I see an advantage to being able to easily differentiate between a web site that serves as an official portal, and a web service that facilitates a mix of formal and informal communication. The question is, how realistic is it to combine the two?”

I tap-danced around Dennis’s points in my response, but I’ve had a chance to think about it for a few days. The answer to this question, like so much about K-TOC, is a function of the community’s public participation piece.

Nearly everyone looking at enterprise social media, in government or on the private side, is doing so because they want to better the internal operation of the enterprise. If managers at the Social Security Administration are thinking about launching an online comunity, it’s probably because they believe that such community would increase employee efficiency and accelerate the flow of information within the agency. Those are good reasons to adopt social media–but they seem to me to have more to do with “Administration 2.0” than Government 2.0.

I’m not knocking Administration 2.0: I want to launch an online comunity behind KDOT’s firewall. I’d love to see how this high-powered collection of engineering talent would apply social media in a professional private environment. I think a KDOT community behind the firewall would be a wondous thing.

But is that really what we mean when we talk about “Government 2.0”? Are we just talking about increasing agency efficiency? Will Government 2.0 look pretty much like government today, only more… efficient? Really?

It seems to me that any vision of Government 2.0 that attempts to incorporate the real transformational possibilities of social media has to include public participation. The public–the people–are connecting to the Big Network as fast as they can. They’re creating a Big Community, a community so big that within a generation it will include effectively everyone in the developed world. In two generations it will include everyone on the planet. Are we to assume that in such a mediaverse “Government 2.0” consists only of super-whippy tech tools that improve internal agency networks?

That’s it?

I think it’s much more likely that government administrators will realize that sooner or later their internal networks have to come to grips with the Big Network. They’re going to have to participate in the Big Conversation–the Big Conversation that’s already underway. It’s underway here on GovLoop. It’s underway at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. At the Global Network Initiative. At the Open Knowledge Foundation. On media websites all over the world.

Hey–everybody’s talking. The Big Conversation keeps getting bigger. Government operates in an ever-more-crowded mediaverse. But no matter how kaleidoscopic the mediaverse, government will always have a message it wants to push. Agencies will always have policies they need to sell to the public, information they’re obliged to promulgate to their constituents.

There are thousands of citizens with informed opinions about transportation in Kansas. They have opinions about seat-belt laws. They want a voice in determining the future transportation infrastructure in their communities. They pay close attention to tolls and toll roads. KDOT, too, has institutional opinions on all those subjects–and K-TOC ensures that KDOT’s positions on these questions remain a prominent part of the conversation about possible answers.

If government has no message to deliver to its constituents, then government has nothing to push, and its social media strategy can ignore public participation. But if government does have a message for its constituents, and it wants that message to remain relevant in the new mediaverse–if it wants that message to be heard at all amid the din of all the competing messages–than eventually its social media strategy has to open the doors to its constituents. Thus K-TOC: Not the solution, but a first attempt at a solution.

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Profile Photo John Dumbrille

There’s no doubt in my mind that ‘new breed’ politicians are being called on to do more general encouragement of policy articulation at the grassroots level, as well as aggregating and filtering the results. They are also expected to embrace the dissemination and use of web 2.0 tools and behave transparently. Great.

Still, most democratic political administrations are still essentially representative, but dont necessary mirror popular opinion, whether generated by social media users, or otherwise. (At issue in the otherwise brilliant USNow film – in my mind at least – was the focus on plebiscites, rather than policy formation at the grassroots level…)

My guess – as long as representative democracy persists, politicians will, necessarily, have some govt 1.0 in them: that is, if govt 1.0 is about making a call without necessarily being in agreement, and disseminating reasons why. I also guess that there are several critical next steps.

Profile Photo Daniel Bevarly

Patrick: Enjoyed reading your observations and suggestions. While defining Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 tends to be a subjective exercise, I have proclaimed that government has tried to make the jump to Web 2.0 before getting Web 1.0 right. Your distinction between admin processes, which I consider “internal,” and the public outreach/involvement component, or “external,” is a good one.

We have seen technology solutions created to support both, e.g., CRM, ECM, KM, CMS, and BPM. And we have seen work teams switch back and forth to manage them. The Best Practice will be solutions that not support both external and internal processes, but actually integrate the two.

Profile Photo Patrick Quinn

John–

I think we (as a society) will end up stumbling through the next steps no matter which path we take. But half the fun is in screwing up and learning something new, right? And we must work w/ the materials at hand.

Daniel–

Agreed. The standard architecture, whatever it may ultimately look like, will integrate all communication operations, inside and outside the agency. Getting from here to there will be an interesting ride.